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Oklahoma City and 4 other cities seek clarification of order approving partial settlement in state's opioid case

Oklahoma City and four other cities have asked to intervene in the state's lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. They want to make sure a judge's order approving a $270 million partial settlement won't interfere with their independent efforts to pursue financial damages against Purdue drug companies.

"The consent judgment entered by the court includes broad language that may be misinterpreted," attorneys for Oklahoma City, Lawton, Enid, Midwest City and Broken Arrow stated in a Tuesday court filing. "It could be incorrectly construed to release every city and county of the state to the consent judgment, even where cities and counties ... never participated in the litigation or settlement negotiations with Purdue."

The settlement with Purdue was announced last week in a lawsuit that Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed against more than a dozen opioid manufacturers in Cleveland County District Court. The lawsuit contends that drug companies committed fraud that caused thousands of opioid overdose deaths and addictions by waging a marketing campaign that understated the addictive properties of the drugs while overstating their therapeutic benefits.

The $270 million settlement calls for Purdue to be dismissed from the state's lawsuit, which will continue against other defendants.

Hunter is representing the state's interests in the lawsuit, plus the interests of many of its cities and counties. The settlement agreement with Purdue specifically set aside $12.5 million of the settlement for cities, towns and counties, with a decision to be made later on how that money will be distributed.

Oklahoma City, Lawton, Enid, Midwest City and Broken Arrow are among a number of Oklahoma cities and towns that opted to not participate in the state's lawsuit, but instead pursued lawsuits of their own.

Attorneys for those cities are concerned by language in Judge Thad Balkman's court order that releases all damage "claims, including all claims of any political subdivisions on whose behalf the attorney general possesses the authority, or obtains the authority, to bind ... regardless of whether any such releasor ever seeks or obtains any distribution under the agreement."

"This language is ambiguous, confusing and unnecessary to release the state's claims against Purdue," attorneys for the cities said. "Moreover, it is inconsistent with representations made to the court that only political subdivisions that participate in the fund will release claims against Purdue."

The cities want the judge to amend the order to make it clear cities and counties still will be able to pursue their own damage claims against Purdue "unless the city or county elects to participate in the $12.5 million fund established for cities and counties, and executes the general release."

Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for Attorney General Hunter, said attorneys in that office were still reviewing the court filing and would have no comment on Tuesday.

Related Photos
<strong>Attorney General Mike Hunter answers questions during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. A $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and the maker of OxyContin received high praise last week as an innovative way to help combat opioid addiction. Hunter is now facing bipartisan backlash from Oklahoma lawmakers who say he overstepped his authority and circumvented their role. [AP PHOTO]</strong>

Attorney General Mike Hunter answers questions during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. A $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and the maker of OxyContin received high praise last week as an innovative way to help combat opioid addiction. Hunter is now...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-92a398aeca7df54f3647a81cd4b0b791.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter answers questions during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. A $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and the maker of OxyContin received high praise last week as an innovative way to help combat opioid addiction. Hunter is now facing bipartisan backlash from Oklahoma lawmakers who say he overstepped his authority and circumvented their role. [AP PHOTO] " title=" Attorney General Mike Hunter answers questions during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. A $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and the maker of OxyContin received high praise last week as an innovative way to help combat opioid addiction. Hunter is now facing bipartisan backlash from Oklahoma lawmakers who say he overstepped his authority and circumvented their role. [AP PHOTO] "><figcaption> Attorney General Mike Hunter answers questions during a news conference Monday, April 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. A $270 million settlement between the state of Oklahoma and the maker of OxyContin received high praise last week as an innovative way to help combat opioid addiction. Hunter is now facing bipartisan backlash from Oklahoma lawmakers who say he overstepped his authority and circumvented their role. [AP PHOTO] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-074065fcd8654d8eb674c57a41849780.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right." title="Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right."><figcaption>Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3469686278756ede0840f84b8963f11c.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma." title="Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma."><figcaption>Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8ece704fb2cc02b8ffea805c3e6929c7.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma." title="Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma."><figcaption>Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cb7047917eeb317d095b2f507e6e89fa.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery." title="Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery."><figcaption>Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery.</figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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